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Biography: Brandanus Caxaro

Priest and Public Notary

Brandanus (or Brandan) Caxaro was the son of Leonardo and Eleonora née Sillato, and a resident of Mdina. His ordination to the priesthood took place before 1529. From 1531 till 1533 he was the Mastro Notaro of the Notabile Curia, and from 1533 till 1563, he practised as a Public Notary. In 1537 he is described as notaro apostolico which means that he had obtained Papal authorisation to exercise the notarial profession.

He had studied aspects of Moral and Dogmatic Theology as well as Canon Law.

Dun Brandanus declared that he had three male children, probably those that were still alive, as from other sources it results that he had in all seven male children, one of whom joined the Franciscan Friars Minor and two others followed their father in the Notarial profession.

As early as September 1531 he started accumulating a number of ecclesiastical benefices which, within thirty years, reached fifteen in number.

Apart from his notarial duties Caxaro carried out other works; and in 1539 he provided the Cathedral with a transcription of the Leonine Indult and for this he received a payment.

During November 1561 he was also entrusted with the office of collector of the Magisterial Segrezia, which indeed, involved a considerable amount of work compensated with a good retribution.

During the second radical attempt to wipe the Reformers’ doctrines, Brandanus was detained, and had to face the Inquisitorial Tribunal. On 7 July 1563 he was imprisoned and on the following day he was given three days time to analyse the errors to which he might have adhered. He immediately sought pardon admitting that Pietro Cumbo had taught him false doctrines concerning Purgatory. But he believed and followed the Church’s doctrine.

That same day he made formal statements concerning his past behaviour. He declared that some thirty years earlier he had accepted some doctrines, namely those that denied the existence of Purgatory, those that refused Papal Bulls and Jubilees which were considered without any value whatsoever, those that rejected Masses for the dead; and the intercession of saints and veneration of images were all considered useless; at the same time he held that priests could marry without the need of seeking Papal dispensation; and there were other heresies. He adhered to almost all the main protestant doctrines that had been infiltrating in Malta years before.

As his health failed him, it was decided to stop questioning him any further that evening and was sent back to prison. On 16 July, all the theologians forming the Consulta agreed on the contents of the sentence that was read by Bishop Cubellas himself. He was to make a public abjuration in the Annunciation church at Birgu and stay in jail at the Bishop’s discretion. He was there and then suspended a divinis for five years and was also deprived of all the ecclesiastical benefices that he had enjoyed so far during the same years. As a sign of his acknowledgment of Authority within the Church, he was to kiss the Bishop’s feet once at the Cathedral as well as the Canons’ hands.

Up till October 1563 Caxaro was still detained in the Bishop’s prison, but on 12 October, Mgr Cubellas acceded to his request and granted him to have Notabile and Rabat as his prison, thereby he could be also present for liturgical ceremonies.

During 1564 he started seeking to be relieved from other injunctions contained in his sentence and formulated a request to be re-instated in the office of Notary Apostolic. This request was only partially granted, and on 24 August 1564 he was permitted to resume saying Mass.

His moral behaviour left much to be desired. He lived for some time with Inguterra Azzopardi from Tarxien and had eight children by her.

Indeed his last two years of his life had to sustain a load of anguish resulting, mainly, from the contents of the sentence given against him by the Inquisitional Tribunal. He died just at the end of the Great Siege.

Brandanus Caxaro is credited for having copied the first poem in Maltese in a notarial contract found in a register dated between 4 December 1533 and 26 May 1536. This first poem, known as Cantilena, was actually composed by one of his ancestors. Brandanus Caxaro described the author of the Cantilena ‘written a long time ago’ as ‘my late ancestor Peter de Caxaro, philosopher, poet and orator’.

This biography is part of the collection created by Michael Schiavone over a 30-year period. Read more about Schiavone and his initiative here.